The Super Bowl has come and gone, which means it's officially baseball season for the initiated. The 2017 fantasy baseball draft board is beginning to come into focus. Now it's time to delve into player rankings. We'll continue with our 2017 catcher fantasy baseball rankings for February.
This round of rankings features picks from Kyle Bishop, Nick Mariano, Bill Dubiel, Brad Johnson, Harris Yudin and Jeff Kahntroff. Today Bill will examine the catcher position, which is rife with talented youngsters who could be big stars as early as this year.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catchers (February)
Catcher Rankings Analysis: The Tiers
The glorious influx of youth! Baseball is more fun than it has been in a while thanks to a bevy of stars-in-the-making, and the top tier here contains two of the brightest. Gary Sanchez left jaws on the floor during his brief stint with the Yankees in 2016, slashing .299/.376/.657 over 53 games and hitting 20 big flies in the process. While it's foolish to expect those rates to stay consistent, I fully expect Sanchez to be a .270 hitter with 20-30 bombs, which should easily make him a top-five catcher.
The baseball world was woefully light on Kyle Schwarber moonshots in 2016 due to a torn ACL, but his beefy biceps should be back to bopping in 2017. The Chicago phenom will likely see a majority of his playing time in the outfield, but as long as he's catcher-eligible he's a top-five option at the position.
Not unlike the two aforementioned youngsters, Willson Contreras has potential for days. In roughly half a season with the reigning World Champs,the 24-year-old hit .282 with 12 homers and 35 RBI across 252 at-bats. He'll have a stranglehold on the starting job in 2017, and with 400+ at-bats he could easily slug 20 homers and hit over .270. The counting stats will be there in the Cubs' lineup, so it wouldn't shock me to see Contreras jump into the top five.
J.T. Realmuto impressed me in his second full season in the big leagues, slashing .303/.343/.428 while also stealing 12 bases and socking 11 long balls. Some of my colleagues seem considerably less in awe, and I'm not quite sure why. Advanced metrics indicate that he didn't over-perform in any category, and in fact he may have a bit more in the bag as far as speed goes. Any stolen bases from the catcher position are just gravy, and the fact that he won't kill your batting average either makes this young catcher a can't-miss top-10 option.
I'm excited to see what Welington Castillo can do in Camden Yards, which is exactly where any right-handed batter with some pop should want to play his home games. 20 homers should be easy if he stays healthy, and in that lineup the RBI and runs will come with ease. He may move up in my rankings next month.
Austin Hedges presents a bit of a conundrum. He has always been a top-flight prospect, but he looked positively dreadful in 56 games with the Padres in 2015, hitting just .168/.215/.248. He had a terrific year in the minors in 2016 though (.326/.353/.597 in 82 games), so it's tough to know what player we'll see in 2017. The job is his to lose though, and I am optimistic that the true big-leaguer in that jersey is closer to the 2016 player than the one we saw in 2015.
Tom Murphy's ranking will shift over the course of the spring as we figure out what his role is going to be for the Rockies. As of this writing Tony Wolters is technically penciled in ahead of him on the depth chart, but I believe Murphy is the superior bat. The two will likely split time all season, but if Murphy surges ahead in the platoon then he could return some real fantasy value.
Francisco Cervelli followed up a stellar 2015 campaign with an injury-plagued and underwhelming 2016 season. At full health, he provides a nice, safe floor if you really and truly want to wait to draft a catcher or you're in a two-catcher league.
Blake Swihart should have his hands full trying to wrest the starting job away from Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez, but he is the top talent in the group and ultimately I think he'll win the job. I don't see him playing any more outfield (the Red Sox certainly don't want to waste innings on him with more talented options on the bench), so it's the starting catcher job or bust for Swihart in 2017.
Chris Herrmann could emerge as the Diamondbacks catcher to own at some point in 2017, but in the early stages he'll have to deal with the presence of Chris Ianetta and Jeff Mathis. Keep him on the back-burner for now, but keep an eye on the situation in two-catcher leagues.